The State of America’s Political Parties

One party is divided on how to govern and the other is united in not governing.

In “Democratic establishment tightens its hold on the party as far-left candidates fall short,” WaPo reporters Michael Scherer, Gregory S. Schneider, and David Weigel continue a long media tradition of drawing sweeping conclusions from low-interest elections held outside the normal political cycle.

Democratic primary voters have been turning away this year from the anti-elite furies that continue to roil Republican politics, repeatedly choosing more moderate candidates promising steady leadership over disrupters from the party’s left wing.

Tuesday’s elections in Virginia, which brought the renomination of former governor Terry McAuliffe and primary losses by three of the Democrats’ most outspoken liberal delegates, only underscored a pattern that was previously apparent in special House elections in Louisiana and New Mexico. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a moderate Democrat, won his party’s nomination without a challenge from the left after two protest candidates failed to collect the 1,000 signatures needed for ballot access.

In the crowded Democratic primary in New York City, a similar crop of contenders, including Eric Adams and Andrew Yang, have emerged as front-runners by pushing platforms that include an embrace of police as an essential component of public safety, a far cry from the “defund the police” mantra that some liberal activists embraced in 2020.

“There is nothing wrong with being one of those trailblazers who shakes up the status quo, but you can do it in a way that brings people along with you,” said Michelle Maldonado, a small-business owner from Bristow, Va., who defeated the state House of Delegates’ only self-described democratic socialist in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. “Prac-tactical — you’ve got to be practical and tactical at the same time.”

Such rhetoric has left some liberal politicians fuming, as they see the dream of remaking the Democratic Party slipping away like it did during the 2020 presidential campaign, when perceived electability became the most valued commodity and voters coalesced around Joe Biden.

“People like myself who are grass-roots-funded, who don’t take corporate money, are not able to compete effectively,” said Del. Ibraheem S. Samirah (Fairfax), another disruptive liberal who lost in the primary Tuesday after his opponent was endorsed by centrist leaders. “The party is not progressive.”

As noted in Wednesday’s post “Virginia’s Weird Politics,” my home of nearly two decades is unusual in a lot of ways. It’s a deep Red state that’s turned Blue, mostly on the strength of a massive inflow of people to DC’s Northern Virginia suburbs. And we’re the only state left that limits governors to one term; even my former home state of Alabama ended that practice. McAuliffe was essentially unopposed, facing a bunch of nobodies and a disgraced lieutenant governor, and had a massive war chest. Fairfax and Bristol are part of Northern Virginia. So, no, “democratic socialism” aren’t the order of the day.

I’m just not sure how much we can extrapolate from these races to national politics. Ditto a New York City mayor’s race that’s just beginning to coalesce.

Andrew Yang is a celebrity candidate who nobody heard of before his quixotic run for President. It’s true that “defund the police” isn’t a popular platform; in its literal form, it’s a slogan representing a fringe faction of an amorphous coalition that formed around the notion that it would be great if police would stop murdering unarmed Blacks. Ditto the notion, expressed later in the piece, that it’s going to be a major test to see how well a minor candidate endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez does. AOC is a charismatic woman who shocked the establishment by defeating an entrenched incumbent in a very liberal district; she’s hardly a bellwether for the biggest city in the country.

Now, the contrast the WaPo Three draw is perfectly reasonable:

The centrist successes contrast with the sharp rightward turn in the Republican Party, which has largely adopted the rhetoric of former president Donald Trump. Rank-and-file members, at the state and local levels, continue to rail against the nation’s institutions, passing censure resolutions against the few leaders who have contradicted Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen — a rallying cry that has been widely repeated by GOP candidates across the country.

Sadly, there’s a much larger sample to draw on for this one. This would seem to be a dead-end strategy but the short-term incentives in that direction are undeniable.

Regardless, what we’re seeing in both parties right now is further evidence that the notion that “the party decides” is outmoded. Sure, monied interests play a role and, especially in Democratic Party presidential races, the Establishment can nudge things toward their favorite candidate. But, ultimately, the primary system means that the most-interested parts of the mass public decide what the party is at any moment.

It’s more obvious in the GOP, where the fringe elements Nixon and Reagan courted to build their coalitions gradually took over the party. While popular Establishment figures managed to fight off more radical challengers, mostly because the votes were split among them, for years, Trump easily prevailed in 2016 and most of the Establishment figures have either been ousted in the primaries or cowed into towing the Trumpist line. (Ted Cruz is perhaps the exemplar of this, having visually transformed himself from an Ivy League debate champion into a scruffy-bearded yahoo in hunter’s camouflage and a trucker hat.)

The primary system has pushed the Democrats in the other direction, to their benefit. The party leadership is actually more radical than its rank-and-file. Dave Schuler points us to a WSJ column (link currently 403ing for me) that observes,

As more college-educated whites have joined the Democratic Party, it has lurched further left, causing discomfort among the more moderate black, Hispanic, Asian and working-class white Democrats who outnumber them. Unlike these progressive white elites, polling shows that minorities in the main tend to support things like voter-ID laws, school choice, race-blind college admissions and the presence of more police officers in high-crime neighborhoods.

David Shor, a data scientist and Democratic strategist, first voiced these concerns in an interview earlier this year with New York magazine. Democrats have tended to treat racial and ethnic minorities as more progressive by nature, but Mr. Shor said that view was a mistake. “Roughly the same proportion of African-American, Hispanic, and white voters identify as conservative,” he said. “What happened in 2020 is that nonwhite conservatives voted for conservatives at higher rates; they started voting more like white conservatives.” Mr. Shor cited the left’s attacks on law enforcement after the death of George Floyd as an example. “In the summer, following the emergence of ‘defund the police,’ as a nationally salient issue, support for [Joe] Biden among Hispanic voters declined,” he said. “We raised the salience of an ideologically charged issue that millions of nonwhite voters disagreed with us on.”

In a separate post, Dave observes,

Is there actually such a thing as a “political establishment” in either party these days? If so I think the rank-and-file of both parties are reacting against their respective establishments. The Democratic leadership is more progressive than the rank-and-file Democrats and Americans, generally, tend to be pragmatic rather than ideological.

I think that’s right.

The problem right now is that the Republican Party is currently without either a discernable ideology or much in the way of pragmatic policy initiatives. There’s no meaningful way in which Trump was conservative. He was able to mobilize resentments against immigrants, the declining status of working class whites, and the downsides of globalization into a powerful coalition but had very little in the way of a governing agenda.

The Democratic leadership is arguably too “progressive,” “woke,” and engaged in “faculty lounge” debates that alienate parts of their constituency. But, nationally and in Virginia, they’re actually trying to govern and making real headway on their agenda. The progressive wing of the party is understandably frustrated that they’re not getting all that their leaders promised them but they’re actually getting a surprisingly large (even from the perspective of the early Obama years) chunk of it passed.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    To me this points to a Democratic strategy: go local. Don’t nationalize basic governance.

    Let me add a local anecdote. In San Antonio, we just had a city council runoff. City Council is, by law, officially non-partisan. No party labels are next to the names on the ballots. In my district, a traditional conservative, Republican one, the incumbent is a known progressive. However, he basically eschews that rhetoric and focuses on constituent services and local city issues like roads and garbage. His opponent was a known conservative who focuses on abortion and grievance. He tried to push the Marxist and “Defund the police” labels into the runoff but he ended up getting whacked.

    It may be just me but I think basic competence may be coming back as an attractive political quality.

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  2. KM says:

    The Democratic leadership is arguably too “progressive,” “woke,” and engaged in “faculty lounge” debates that alienate parts of their constituency.

    Except when those ideas are polled to the public, they do well to so great it’s a wonder anyone opposes it.

    More than 54% of the public states they’re “somewhat or very comfortable using these pronouns to refer to someone if asked to do so”. “Defund the police” as a slogan got villianized by the right wing *fast* but 64% say citizens “need to have the power to sue police officers to hold them accountable for misconduct and excessive use of force” and that they are engaging in damaging behaviors, the foundational logic behind “defund the police”. A living wage polls so well and is finding such social purchase we’re seeing it stigmatized daily in the news as the reason why businesses “can’t find workers” since they’re daring to demand $15 for entry level jobs! Don’t get me started on gun control, abortion or any other topic that’s gotten labeled “progressive”.

    Americans like progressive ideas when they aren’t tainted by being smeared as “woke”. Remember all those people screaming about Obamacare but thinking they’re fine because they have ACA? It’s labeling and liberals are TERRIBLE at letting conservatives label and deride their concepts. Much like any bully, once they give you a humiliating nickname to mock you with, it sticks unless you do something to change it. Most of the general public is fine to enthusiastic about progressive notions but once it gets tainted as “faculty lounge speak”, it’s hard to come back. Americans are suckers for marketing tricks and mislabeling a competitor’s product is one of the easiest to pull off.

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  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    @KM: A couple of points. First 54% isn’t really good enough for Democrats these days because of the built-in structural advantages for Rs. I mean, I support using preferred pronouns, and I do it. But is it something to run on?

    Second, I think the problem is far more with the language used than with the ideas. In political speech – meant to appeal to people who don’t already agree with you – I think you need to stay very, very grounded, and tie into concepts but not into jargon. Connect with the experiences your audience has had. This is entirely possible.

    I get that Rs want to make a big deal of the “bathroom threat”, so I, for instance, would address that by saying, “If someone tries to start something in a woman’s restroom where my (trans) daughter is, I’m pretty sure they will be glad she’s there”. I mean, you might have to come up with something else, unless you have a trans daughter yourself.

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  4. Kylopod says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I mean, I support using preferred pronouns, and I do it. But is it something to run on?

    It’s a moot point, since absolutely no one has “run on” it except Republicans.

    Now some Dems have successfully run on the bathroom issue, even in reddish states. Which just goes to show that the wokophobia among some Dems is overstated.

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  5. I think that, empirically, the notion that the Dems have actually “lurched” leftward is overblown and comes across to me as more than a bit of both-siding.

    If we look at actual legislative output and candidate selection (e.g., Biden), the leftward “lurch” is more of a drift.

    And, as the point is made above, the Dems actually support policies that are popular but have to operate in a weird space in actual government that actually favors the Reps’ preferences. (Both in terms of getting elected as well as in governing).

    The Democratic leadership is arguably too “progressive,” “woke,” and engaged in “faculty lounge” debates that alienate parts of their constituency.

    I am going to say that it feels (and I use that word specifically, so realize my claim is tenuous) that there always so level of handwringing about party elites messaging. But I truly wonder if any of this concern is well placed.

    It actually seems more likely to me that the problem for Dems when it comes to winning and legislating is not because some of their members are too woke, but that the deck is stacked against them in practically every pathway to power and governance.

    The EC, the Senate, and various aspects of the House elections (not to mention state legislative elections) are stacked against Dems. But when they lose or don’t win as much as we think they should, we turn around and blame them. (Not to say they don’t also deserve real criticism).

    And there is also the problem that we have enough interest diversity in the US for a multi-party system, but it is all stuffed into a two-party duopoly. This is to say that a lot of the criticisms that are leveled at the parties forget this fact.

    A lot of this is to say: I think a lot of folks in the US look at the parties and ask “What is wrong with you?” when the real question is, “What is wrong with the overall system that produces only two viable parties when we need more and that doesn’t actually allow majorities interested to govern?”

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  6. I suspect that a majority of Democrats do not live in an X vs Y world, an especially black conservatives. They don’t wake up everyday and ask has the Democratic party lurched leftwards, and if so, by how much? The party is basically filled with normal people, which is how they ended up with Biden.

    If there’s a difference, it’s young vs old. Older people think we might need the cops, but their children are saying Defund the Police. Big deal. But it’s not the late 60s and nobody is splintering off from BLM to bomb police stations. The tone of constant war-crime level horror that comes from social media regarding Critical Race Theory or cancel culture is a rhetorical mode aimed at only at a certain demographic who needs it mainlined right into their veins.

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  7. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Second, I think the problem is far more with the language used than with the ideas. In political speech – meant to appeal to people who don’t already agree with you – I think you need to stay very, very grounded, and tie into concepts but not into jargon.

    I’ve said this over and over. Dems could sweep huge swaths of the Great Lakes region (and possibly the Great Plains) if they stepped down the rhetoric and actually addressed issues in terms that resonate with middle-class, working/farm families.

    “Medicare for all” is a losing game. “Affordable healthcare for working families” sounds like a good idea.

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @KM:

    Except when those ideas are polled to the public, they do well to so great it’s a wonder anyone opposes it.

    You’re contrasting moderate versions of progressive ideas with those advocated by a growing number of party elites.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It actually seems more likely to me that the problem for Dems when it comes to winning and legislating is not because some of their members are too woke, but that the deck is stacked against them in practically every pathway to power and governance.

    But they go hand-in-hand. Yes, the deck is stacked. But that makes things like “defund the police” and extremism on emerging social issues more of a burden on moderate candidates trying to win in competitive races.

    Overally, it’s not a horrible position to be in. They’re trying to unite a majority coalition rather than motivate a minority coalition. And the elite minority within the majority party is frustrated that they’re getting 1/3 a loaf rather than the whole loaf, whereas the majority in the minority party is frustrated that they’re slowly but surely losing on all the major issues.

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  9. EddieInCA says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    “Affordable healthcare for working families” sounds like a good idea.

    B.S.

    Republicans would turn that slogan into “Democrats wants socialism”. You keep acting like the other party is acting in good faith. They’ve shown over and over again that they’re not. So I think you’re incredibly naive to think the issues the Dems have vs Republicans is one of messaging.

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  10. Gustopher says:

    There’s no meaningful way in which Trump was conservative.

    He wants to halt and turn back the changes to the racial makeup of America. That is a very traditional conservative viewpoint towards social change, but applied to race.

    Conservatism seeks to protect the status quo — often the status quo of a decade or two ago. Sometimes they become unhinged from reality and want to restore a status quo that never existed.

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  11. Mu Yixiao says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Republicans would turn that slogan into “Democrats wants socialism”.

    They don’t need to. The Democrats are already saying that.

    You keep acting like the other party is acting in good faith. They’ve shown over and over again that they’re not.

    Which has exactly jack-shit with how the Dems should present themselves.

    So I think you’re incredibly naive to think the issues the Dems have vs Republicans is one of messaging.

    I’m sitting here in the Midwest talking to people. When I explain what things mean beyond the rhetoric, I get a lot of “conservatives” reacting positively. “Oh. Well… that makes sense. But that’s not what they’ve been saying.”

    And your issue seems to be “The Republicans can spew whatever they want and everyone will believe it automatically–regardless of what the other side is saying or how they’re saying it“.

    Do the Republicans have some sort of mind-control powers that I haven’t been alerted to? I did, after all miss a couple of the baby-eating meetings so I could celebrate communist holidays.

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  12. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    You’re contrasting moderate versions of progressive ideas with those advocated by a growing number of party elites.

    Are they growing in number? We’ve always had a few extra-lefty Democrats — Kucinich, Howard Dean, Jerry Brown, Barney Frank, Jesse Jackson, Bernie Sanders (we’ve always had Bernie Sanders…)

    The only differences are the extra-lefty base has social media to appear more prominent, and they’re less white. (Jesse Jackson was an outlier, punching above his weight). Kucinich had to get a centrist media to cover him, and was usually presented through that filter. AOC has Twitter.

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  13. EddieInCA says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Do the Republicans have some sort of mind-control powers that I haven’t been alerted to?

    Yes. No matter the issue, for the GOP is comes down to five things:

    God
    Gays (and Transgenders now)
    Guns
    Socialism
    Freedom

    There is no rational Democratic position that won’t be stuck into one of those five categories to ramp up the anger and hate.

    Yes. You’re naive.

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  14. Mu Yixiao says:

    @EddieInCA:

    50% of the US identifies as Independent. Some tend to vote D, some R.

    You’re saying that those people ONLY listen to Republican bullshit.

    You’re saying that Georgia and Arizona could NEVER vote blue. You’re saying that NV, CO, IA, WI, MI, OH, PA, VA, NC, and FL AREN’T actually battleground states–because the Republicans just need to shout “Gays and Socialism!” and everyone will vote red.

    Your saying that everyone who isn’t 100% on your side is evil and stupid.

    You’re not willing to hold a rational debate. This discussion is over.

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  15. Mikey says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    50% of the US identifies as Independent. Some tend to vote D, some R.

    And about 95% of them vote so reliably D or R that the label “independent” is all but meaningless.

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  16. EddieInCA says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Bill O’Reilly calls himself an independent.
    Glenn Beck calls himself an independent.

    https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2019/03/14/political-independents-who-they-are-what-they-think/

    You should read that study. It will highlight your naivete.

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  17. Teve says:

    @EddieInCA: my dad called himself an Independent. He wasn’t one of those followers who voted for whoever the party told him to. He was his own man, who thought deeply about the issues.

    Who did he vote for, for president? Nixon, ford, reagan, reagan, bush, Bush, dole, bush, mccain, romney, and trump.

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  18. Kylopod says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Bill O’Reilly calls himself an independent.

    Years ago, when he was still on Fox (this was one of Al Franken’s “lies and the lying liars who tell them”), a WaPo reporter uncovered that O’Reilly was registered as a Republican even though he’d been telling his audience he was an independent.

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  19. inhumans99 says:

    I do not want to wade into this conversation between Mu and Eddie too much, but I get what Mu is trying to say. Even our own Michael Reynolds pointed out that the Dems can do a better job at messaging (defund the police is a bad slogan, but asking us to create a national program to retrain police to better serve the communities they are part of is much better).

    Even if we feel that changing our messaging to attract folks who lean towards the GOP side is pointless we should still try, anything that makes it harder to slot the messaging into the
    God
    Gays (and Transgenders now)
    Guns
    Socialism
    Freedom

    Tiers above is one more obstacle for the GOP to overcome as they try to turn the U.S. into an Authoritarian nation. The GOP also has a problem, they are also shockingly naïve when they feel that folks will just end up enjoying the slop that Trump wants to feed them as their Dear Leader.

    Hello, folks in the South have experience fighting this thing called a Civil War, and there was the Revolutionary War before that. When folks get riled up in America they push back, sometimes violently, when did the GOP think that they could guarantee their would be no more major conflicts (not just a handful of riots that could theoretically be tamped down without turning into a full blown conflict that spreads across the U.S.) if they just installed Trump as our now and forevermore President? Seriously, talk about naïve.

    If folks did not push back against what they see as an oppressor there would be no ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, or Syria and things would be all Kumbaya in the Middle East. Democrats are always being told we are clueless when it comes to phrasing things so they will appeal to the white blue collar worker, but hoo boy, Democrats are not the only folks who sometimes need to buy a clue, along with a vowel or two (or three).

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  20. EddieInCA says:

    @inhumans99:

    I agree with much of what you write. Progressives are bad at some of their messaging. However, having said that, it’s folly to think that the National GOP, as it’s currently constituted, will work with Dems under any situation. GOP Congress members have 70-30 issues that they support which they vote against because of the 30%. That is insane. To treat it as normal is just creating further problems down the road.

    Put another way, how does one have an honest discussion about aortion policy when the other person starts from the position that you’re a murderer?

    How does one have an honest discussion about tax policy when the other party believes in fairy tales when it comes to tax policy, rather than actual fact-based policies?

    How does one have an honest discussion about LGBTQ issues when the other party starts from a position that all LGBTQ people are going straight to hell and that discriminating against them is not only okay, but the proper way to deal with them based on their religious beliefs?

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  21. Mimai says:

    Daryl Davis, call your office.

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  22. Mu Yixiao says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Progressives are bad at some of their messaging. However, having said that, it’s folly to think that the National GOP, as it’s currently constituted, will work with Dems under any situation.

    I’m drunk and waiting for my dumplings to steam.

    You’re mixing two very distinct groups–and that’s the problem the Dems have.

    People who vote Republican != Republicans in office.
    People who consider themselves conservative != Trump supporters.

    Pull your ass out of Hollywood for a week, and I’ll sit you down in a bar full of farmers and blue-collar workers–the people the Dems claim to represent–so you can “educate” them on how they’re ignorant rubes who don’t know what’s best for them and just blindly follow whatever the Republicans say.

    I’ll put you up in my guest room, feed you, and pay your bar bill for a weekend if I can put you in a room with small business owners, farmers, and blue-collar workers and record you telling them how they’re sheep who do whatever the Republican party tells them to.

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  23. KM says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I’m sitting here in the Midwest talking to people. When I explain what things mean beyond the rhetoric, I get a lot of “conservatives” reacting positively. “Oh. Well… that makes sense. But that’s not what they’ve been saying.”

    “Not what they’re saying” or “not what my biased news sources have been telling me?”

    Because if we’re honest here, they’re not reading HuffPo or watching CNN; they’re on FOX or OANN and that’s what they’re “hearing” Dems “say”. They aren’t on AOC’s twitter feed but are watching Candice Owen’s latest attempt at a hot take get ratioed and whine about shadow bans. As I pointed out, it’s conservative framing that’s tainting the wording but the ultimate concept does very well. You brought up “affordable healthcare for working class” but what’s the ACA if not the Dem’s try that got it’s effectiveness watered down, tagged Obamacare as a slur and constantly in danger of the GOP gutting it?

    People tend to like progressive ideas but because most of the media is conservative-controlled and they write the narratives, it really doesn’t matter how Dems “present themselves” when they’ll be lied about in the only way the folks you’re talking to listen. Take Biden – presents as inoffensive AF, professional, competent and lowkey but that’s not how he’s framed on FOX. If it has to go through the conservative lens, it is going to be misinterpreted on purpose, no matter what or how good it originally was.

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  24. Mu Yixiao says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Put another way, how does one have an honest discussion about aortion policy when the other person starts from the position that you’re a murderer?

    Why do you keep insisting that the end of the bell curve represents everyone?

    Honest question: Are you willing to acknowledge that there’s a “middle ground” that actually represents the majority of people?

    The “abortion==murder” and “there are no exceptions” market share is small. But Dems like you keep insisting that it’s an iron-clad aspect of being conservative. So conservatives who feel that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare”* are pushed away rather than embraced.

    If the future of the Democratic party is you? I’ll vote Green, Libertarian, Martian, Seasteader, or [Groucho] Marx.

    I have zero tolerance for those who can’t find common ground–much less see it.
    =====
    * A Democratic phrase

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  25. Mu Yixiao says:

    @KM:

    “Not what they’re saying” or “not what my biased news sources have been telling me?”

    {sigh} You are falling into the trap of “if they’re conservative, they only hear things from one source”.

    Can we please get past this?

    Everyone who disagrees with you is not automatically a brain-dead zombie.

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  26. Kurtz says:

    @James Joyner:

    They’re trying to unite a majority coalition rather than motivate a minority coalition. And the elite minority within the majority party is frustrated that they’re getting 1/3 a loaf rather than the whole loaf, whereas the majority in the minority party is frustrated that they’re slowly but surely losing on all the major issues.

    There are at least two instances of false equivalence here.

    The minority party is frustrated because culture is moving past them. Them “losing” isn’t the result of politics, it’s the result of societal change.

    Do we blame Bill Walsh for rendering Chuck Noll’s offensive system obsolete or do we blame Ground Chuck for refusing to adapt to different circumstances?

    One can clearly see this by extending the stacked deck metaphor. The Republicans have a house edge in the Senate and the EC. But rather than work with that house edge and adjust to a changing world, they insist on enacting rules that distort the fixed probabilities of a deck of cards.

    Equating the frustration of a minority party who insists that others must conform to their worldview (at the expense of the freedom of others) with the frustration of the majority party who eke out a few partial victories that are limited by bad faith opposition.

    Not to mention, let’s not pretend that Republicans haven’t mostly won on tax rates and judicial appointments for the better part of three decades.

    You’re also falsely equating unity and motivation. In politics, the latter is much easier than the former. Especially if you have a whole media ecosystem willing to act in bad faith.

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  27. KM says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    That’s not what I’m saying. I specifically said the people you referred to – the ones you need to explain the concepts to – are NOT getting them from the source but rather through a conservative lens. After all, if it sounds good as an idea, then why didn’t it sound good when they heard it? Yes, Dems are INCREDIBLY bad at messaging but quite a bit of explanations usually have to work around things they’ve “heard” about something and not the something itself. I

    Most media in this country *IS* conservative in nature; the Sinclair group is the leading local news provider in the nation and is conservative to the point it was pro-Trump and pro-MAGA. I’ve posted before about how my local news in a blue area is starting to air more and more conservative-slanted pieces (especially about the “worker shortage” and high wages/unemployment being a cause) and wouldn’t you know it, Sinclair. My mother, who watches a little CNN and FOX but the local news religiously from 5 to 6:30, has been repeating conservative points she’s picked up from there. Ask her about $15 an hour and she’ll tell you it’s ruining companies trying to start back up and unemployment is helping lazy people demand money they don’t deserve. She’s liberal…. but getting her news through a conservative local lens is making a living wage harder to discuss. Add in that 89% of Americans get news online (social media, FB, etc) and algorithms are designed to keep you in the feedback loop unless you deliberate seek out other sources…. which would change the algorithm to accommodate it.

    Most of the country gets their news through a biased source, including liberals. That’s just facts.
    Anyone who just reads the local paper or watches the local news is, in fact, getting a conservative lens applied as that’s what being given to them. Please stop with the “OMG you think conservative are all brain-dead you liberal elitist” stereotype; it’s just as bad as what you’re accusing us of.

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  28. Unsympathetic says:

    I wish Democratic leadership was more progressive than it is. They’re neither progressive nor woke — that kente cloth pose in the capitol rotunda was one of the most cringe-worthy PR stunts in recent memory.

    70% of the US favors at minimum a nationwide public option.. and we’re getting nothing of the sort. If D leadership was either progressive or woke, they’d be pushing that hard.

    Over 62% of US favors over $15/hr as minimum wage.. and we’re getting nothing of the sort. If D leadership was either progressive or woke, they’d be pushing that hard.

    Anyone arguing that Democratic leadership is either progressive or woke.. doesn’t know what the actual progressive or woke positions are.

    In much of today’s commentary – including James, apparently – the words “Progressive” and “Woke” are used as a slur to mean “Someone having the temerity to support something I don’t like.”

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  29. EddieInCA says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Pull your ass out of Hollywood for a week, and I’ll sit you down in a bar full of farmers and blue-collar workers–the people the Dems claim to represent–so you can “educate” them on how they’re ignorant rubes who don’t know what’s best for them and just blindly follow whatever the Republicans say..

    Hollywood? 10 of the last 13 year of my professional life have been in Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas Metro areas. Blue, right? No. The actual locations were Covington and Madison, GA. , Pembroke Pines, Davie, and Weston, FL, and McKinney and Plano, TX. Red areas all.

    I heard from plenty of truck drivers, farmers and ranchers, along with plumbers, electricians and other salt of the earth tradespeople. Too many of them said things like “I can’t believe this country voted in a n***er as President” – IN EVERY ONE OF THOSE PLACES.

    I had someone tell me, in Buchanan, GA, when they heard me speaking spanish on the phone, and I quote, “Boy, if you’re out after dark, better not let anyone hear you speaking Mexican, or you might find your ass in the hospital or worse.” 2017.

    Google Cedartown, GA and “cross burning”. Better yet, read this link:
    https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/the-kkk-today/

    I shot a series in Cedartown in 2018. We couldn’t get any African American background actors to come to Cedartown from Atlanta. Why? Because they had had a freaking cross burning in 2017 – along wth a ton of Trump flags. Yes. A real KKK cross burning. African Americans were not, and are STILL not, welcome in Cedartown. A hour outside of Atlanta.

    I’ve spent more time in podunk towns than I can name so spare me the “Hollywood” ad hominem BS.

    I’ll put you up in my guest room, feed you, and pay your bar bill for a weekend if I can put you in a room with small business owners, farmers, and blue-collar workers and record you telling them how they’re sheep who do whatever the Republican party tells them to

    You don’t have to. They show it every 2 years. Gods. Gays. Guns. LGBTQ. Freedom. Socialism.

    Rinse. Repeat.

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  30. Mimai says:

    @Unsympathetic:

    That kente cloth photo op! That was indeed something to behold.

    You make a good point about labels such as progressive and woke. Makes me think of Layne’s Law about debates eventually descending to definitions of words.

    You write the following:

    In much of today’s commentary – including James, apparently – the words “Progressive” and “Woke” are used as a slur to mean “Someone having the temerity to support something I don’t like.”

    I will abstain from opining on what James thinks or intends. I will instead say that these bespoke definitions do seem rather prevalent (if usually unstated). To be fair, the counterpart of what you write is also rather prevalent (and often stated explicitly):

    “Conservative” and “Republican” are used as a slur to mean “Someone who is inherently evil and wants to murder all POC, as evident by their disagreement with my perspective.”

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  31. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: I’ll bring up Corey Robin’s thesis that conservatism has always been reactionary, nothing but reacting to liberalism. Trump was certainly conservative in the sense of opposing what liberals want today, updated daily.

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  32. gVOR08 says:

    @Kurtz:

    The minority party is frustrated because culture is moving past them. Them “losing” isn’t the result of politics, it’s the result of societal change.

    That. They hate that culture changes. And because they can’t change that, they’ve started a war with political weapons.

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  33. Mister Bluster says:

    @EddieInCA:..podunk towns
    In 35 years of travel to 14 states to ply my trade climbing telephone poles to earn a living, from
    Los Angeles to Chicago to Houston to West Palm Beach. Clarence, Missouri to Eden, Wisconsin to Bunker Hill, Illinois and 300+ other telephone exchanges that I worked there was always somebody at the coffee shop in the morning or at the diner at night that would assume that since I was white I wanted to hear them call black people ni99ers. I can’t count the times that I would say “You’re not talking to me like that. I don’t care who says what to who I’m not interested in hearing you say that about anyone.”
    As much as I liked traveling and visiting new places one of the redeeming qualities of most of the jobs that I worked in various cities and villages was that I rarely had to deal directly with subscribers and most of the time I worked alone.
    (I worked in McKinney in ’83. 1980 population is listed at 16,000. 2021 pop. 198,000. I suspect it is Podunk Plus by now.)

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  34. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @KM: Which is exactly why Dems need to get out to these communities and challenge these people eyeball to eyeball–which is exactly what happened in GA and why Beto came within an Angel hair of beating Cruz.

    @EddieInCA: I get that–but you can never concede the information battle space to the adversary. You have to get ahead of them and force them to react faster than they are capable. This is ultimately what happened with Trump and Covid. Mixed with reality on the grown his team’s inability to outmessage and drive a narrative is what did him in. The bottom line is Democrats to not have a winning message for current areas that are R +40. Bringing that down to R +30 would be game changing.

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